Aust pushes to be part of UK trade future

Perry Duffin
(Australian Associated Press)


Brexit will allow the United Kingdom to do business as a “sovereign, open and free” nation and the Turnbull government’s trade minister is chomping at the bit to get Australia involved.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has paid tribute to the enduring bonds between Australia and the UK while pledging to advance free markets and trade liberalisation.

“Australia is committed to helping the United Kingdom define its trade policy and emerge as a great new liberal voice in the international trading system,” Mr Ciobo said in a speech in London on Monday local time.

He warned Britain’s efforts to liberalise trade would expose some business sectors to “painful adjustments” but it would be for the greater good.

Australia’s investments in education, training, employment services and community assistance would help citizens weather the difficult times, he said.

Mr Ciobo said Australia’s export industries, particularly agriculture, suffered when the UK joined the European Union in 1973.

“Australia is moving surely down our path to a formal launch of negotiations for our own free trade agreement with the EU,” he said.

“Even so, I believe that Australia and the UK should prepare now, with a sense of urgency, to negotiate as soon as possible a high quality and ambitious trade agreement of our own.”

He said March 30, 2019, the day Brexit is scheduled to take place, would be the ideal day to begin formal negotiations.

“The aspiration for both Australia and the UK is to be able to move to a high quality, comprehensive free trade agreement between us once the UK formally exits the EU,” Mr Ciobo said earlier after meeting with his British counterpart Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

He said the aim of the bilateral relationship was to grow trade investment between the two countries, and there was more clarity with the UK and EU agreeing on the transition period for Brexit.

He emphasised the need to “commence negotiations basics on day one of the commencement of the interim period to the view of having a high-quality trade agreement ready to go essentially on January 1, 2021” so that there would be a seamless transition to trade with a UK outside the EU.

Discussions on a trade agreement with the the EU are more advanced than with the UK because the process had started earlier. Mr Ciobo said the government was waiting for the EU to complete its internal processes to commence negotiations, which he was hopeful would begin before the middle of the year.

Mr Ciobo lauded the UK’s interest in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, to which Australia is a signatory but US President Donald Trump theatrically rejected.

He also committed Australia to joining Britain in helping developing nations, particularly those in Southeast Asia, construct infrastructure and flourish.

“So bring on prosperous, free-trading, global Britain,” he said.

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